Acher opens the door, and I look up to stare at…Riider. Riider, the kid who failed his studies, refused to please our parents, and punched kids for no reason.
He has grown a lot in two years, and he looks more like a strong young man than a stupid little brother. I can tell, though, that it is him–still that crop of long, dark hair and those deep blue eyes.
His face is more tense than before. He has grown darker in his expressions, and his face grows thicker still as he recognizes me.
“Kale.” Riider’s voice sounds shocked and a little disappointed. I am not surprised; years of being ridiculed and ignored can harden people, especially someone like Riider.
I cough. “Riider, what are you…?”
He doesn’t answer. Acher clears his throat. “Well, it seems you two know each other. Stylo, this is Kale from the king’s army. He has agreed to help us into the palace.”
I turn and notice the other person for the first time. He is smaller than Riider, but he looks equally strong and his eyes have an intensity I have never seen before. He smiles vacantly at me, but he looks at me with just as much contempt as Riider. I wonder if Riider has told him anything about me.
“Will this plan work?” Acher asks me. He has lost his confident words. They come out sounding worried, scared, even…desperate.
I focus my attention to the miniature battle plan on the table. It’s a simple attack, but it will be effective, especially because the king is not heavily guarded.
I nod. I don’t really know what to say. I’m too distracted by seeing Riider again, and a lot of me just wants to ignore Acher and ask Riider questions.
“It should work,” I finally say. “The king has never been attacked, so he won’t expect this.” I take the key out of my pocket and hold it out. Both Acher and Riider reach for it. I quickly put it back. “I am the only one with the key, so I will be the one to open the doors. No one else.”
“Very well,” Acher says calmly and with no expression. “Thank you for coming,” he continues, turning to Riider and Stylo. “Practice your archery, Stylo, and your sword-fighting, Riider. We will scout out the castle tomorrow.”
Stylo leaves. Riider hesitates in the doorway, and turns back to me. He doesn’t speak, but his expression says it all. I’m not forgiving you for being a jerk, he says. I’m not forgetting what happened.
Honestly, I don’t blame him. If the roles were switched, I would hate him just as deeply.
* * *
I hope you enjoyed this piece of my story, Stylo, that I’m writing through NaNoWriMo. It was one of my stronger parts. Hopefully your NaNo writing is going just as well, even if you, like me, haven’t written much.